Is there a better recommendation for a book than for a person to be seen smiling into it as they stand on the bus in the morning? The story is narrated by the unapologetic Mary Hooligan, who lies down on her bed one night, puts a pill into her mouth and thinks back over her life and lovers. Comparisons have been made to Molly Bloom; here, Mary has said yes to every invitation. She has tasted and tested so much. Now she looks down into her armfuls of shimmering anecdotes to see what she has truly amassed. “To face the music at last. To be on one’s tod. Do I mean it? Apparently not. I am still snooping around, on the lookout for pals, penpals, pub-pals, cronies of any kind, provided they know their place, keep a distance, stay on the leash, leave me my soul’s crust, and my winding dirging effluvias.” This slim novella, which O’Brien wrote in 1972 – this reprint has an introduction by Andrew O’Hagan – pulsates with passion and bounding language. It is a search for understanding in the dark, a masterpiece that continues to feel relevant and true.